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Discussion Starter #1
After searching and reading all day I feel I am still not 100% sure on where to go from here. Maybe you all can help.

Here are the facts of the issues. I am gathering these second hand so bare with me

1. Check Engine Light has been constantly on for months. Had checked and was told it was a sensor. Never checked further than that

2. Car started to experience slight drive-ability issues, shaking and such

3. White smoke (dense, NOT steam) was coming out of exhaust at idle and more pronounced under acceleration

4. Car temp guages starts to bounce up to the top and then back down, does this a few times before going back down to 1/8 of the way.

5. White smoke stops all of a sudden, although car smells like it has no cats

This is where I stepped in

6. Checked overflow coolant res. Almost empty. Filled up with coolant and test drove. No overheated, no drive-ability issues. CEL still on

7. Check codes using scanner. P0301 Cylinder 1 Misfire Detected and another P0117 Engine Coolant Temperature (ECT) Circuit Low Input

8. Let car sit and cool down. Check res again, fill up a bit more to cool range. Clear codes. Test Drive

9. Drive up to 65mph, decel. Did this 3-4 times. On last one CEL comes on this time blinking and then steady.

10. Check codes. P0301 Cylinder Misfire


Car is now parking and I am not sure where to start. Car drives and idles fine. Idle at start is about 1000rpms. At idle it is around 895-920 according to scan tool.

Coolant temp is around 197-207
IAT is around 84-95
 

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Which year model & engine are we talking about????

Find out whats going on with the cyl-1 misfire.

Perform a visual inspection on the spark plug electrical connections & after dark have a look for a arcs & sparks electrical light show around #1.
Spritz it with a spray bottle of water to see if you can induce electrical breakdown from faulty insulation.

If all electrically seems sound, with a stethoscope have a listen to the #1 fuel injector to determine if it sounds different than the others & is the sound in time with the misfire indication. You could also rig your inductive timing light so you could also be monitoring for ignition misfire while you listen.
Listen around the valve train for any unusual mechanical noise in time with the misfire indication.

Have your scantool perform a STFT & LTFT of both cyl banks, to see if it can provide any fuel trim clues that might suggest #1 injector may be intermittently acting out.

Have the scantool also perform a cyl balance test to see if it can turn up any clues about cyl-1.

With the stethoscope have a listen around #1 cyl for any sounds in time with the misfire indication.

On the erratic coolant temp gauge operation, check the wiring & electrical connection to the temp gauge sensor. Look for damaged wire insulation, faulty electrical connection, or corrosion.
EDIT: With your multimeter, measure the cold & warm resistance value of the gauge temp sensor & post the Numbers.

Some thoughts for consideration, let us know how your trouble shoot goes.
 

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I would be worried about a headgasket if the simple checks do not play out.
 

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^+1 on pulling the #1 spark plug for a read, compared to the others. If it seems to be really clean, like its been steam cleaned & the coolant level continues to fall, suspect a head gasket leak problem as has been suggested.

If you come to suspect the head gasket, perform a radiator pressure drop test, or a cyl blow down test to see if it'll leak pressure into the cooling system. If it's leaking hot exhaust into the cooling system, that could be the reason for the coolant temp gauge spiking/acting out.
If you remove the radiator cap & can smell exhaust fumes, that can be cause to suspect a head gasket problem, as well as a sweet smell coming from the tail pipe.
Do you see any signs of moisture on the engine dip stick, or signs of a milkshake like deposit on the dipstick, or around the inside of the oil fill cap???
A positive from some, or all of those things could be clues to a head gasket leak problem.
More thoughts for consideration, let us know what you find.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Couple updates

1. checked out dipstick. no signs of moisture or milky color.

2. when driving home yesterday, drove up a large hill and the car didnt seem to want to go any faster than 40-45 and it made a few loud popping sounds (from driver side of engine)
 

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Ok, good no milkshake signs on the oil dipstick, or oil fill cap.
Get the scantool back on the engine to look for additional pending, or set trouble codes & post All code clue Numbers found.
I'd also consider having the scantool hooked up before the next drive, so it can capture a full snapshot of the drive cycle, as the results could help focus your trouble shoot.
With the scantool, have a look at the MAF & O2 PID's & the long & short term fuel trim Numbers & post them up for review. Sounds like you may have more than one problem confusing things.

Did the popping sound sorta like back fire, or spit back through the throttle body, or was it a mechanical sound????
Lack of power sounds like fuel delivery mischief, but could also be timing, or a clogged cat converter causing excessive exhaust back pressure, so maybe any stored, or pending codes could offer up clues on where best to look next for suspects.

What was the set trouble code Number that was said to be for a sensor???? If you don't have, or can't remember the code Number, what sensor was it said to be for/what sensor was said to need replacement????

Ignoring a CEL/SES warning light for months isn't good practice, as if the warning was for a faulty O2 sensor, that cyl bank fuel trim could be so corrupt as to cause cat converter over heating & internal matrix meltdown & that can cause excessive exhaust back pressure when you go at throttle up, or climbing a hill & cause a lack of power. It'll also cause excessive engine heat/maybe why the temp gauge spiked/maybe why you heard popping on the latest drive????

Hook up your vacuum gauge & perform the restricted exhaust test in scenario 14 here How to Use and Interpret a Vacuum Gauge.
If the cat converter is clogged, it'll typically glow cherry red when it over heats, so have a look underneath at the cat converters next time you drive it & it doesn't want to go at throttle up.
While the vacuum gauge is hooked up, also perform scenario 13 for blown head gasket.
If the problem was serious & ignored for months, it could have caused more problems, so good that your having a go at diagnosing the problem/s.
Keep us posted on your findings.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Sorry for the delay on updates. I dont have many diagnostic tools to check things out. So I figured I would start simple.

Pulled the #1 plug and it is definitely bad. So replaced all six plugs. Wires looked good so I didnt replace those.

Cleared the code and have driving it to work. Everything seems to be running great. No issues with drivability

Here are pictures of the old plugs and a close up of the #1 plug.

Wondering if there is something that caused the plug to go bad. I plan to do a coolant flush and oil change today or so.
 

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Ok, kinda difficult to tell, but the #1 plug seems to be darker than the others, so maybe the #1 fuel injector has a runny nose & the spark gaps seem to be Way too wide.

How long have these plugs & wires been in service & what spark gap did you set the new ones to????

Not possible to determine by looks if the plug wires are ok internally. They should measure 1K ohm/inch of length 30K ohms max, no matter the length & the resistance reading should remain steady as the wire & connectors are flexed.

Good to hear it seems to be running better with the new plugs. Kinda sounds like the vehicle may be behind on its scheduled maintenance replacement parts???
 

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With the electrode basically burned off of that plug you have something going on in that one cyl. Here's a good chart to read your plugs and the story they are telling on how your car is running.....


If you save the picture below, you can zoom in on the text.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Not sure how long those plugs were in there. I dont know the last time things were serviced or anything really.

I bought plugs that were supposed to be pre-gapped already to match OEM. I think it was like .43 or something? I cant recal
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Update

Car runs decent, no real drivability issues.

Started car on weekend and a large amount of white smoke came from tailpipe.

CEL came back on at that time.

Showing codes P0420 and P0430.

Causes could be The catalytic converter is no longer functioning properly or An oxygen sensor is not reading (functioning) properly orThere is an exhaust leak

I will start by looking for any leaks I can find but am curious as how I can check to see if the sensors are bad. Does anyone know what voltage they should read?
 

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420 and 430 are catalyst efficiency codes for bank 1 and 2.
It's likely the cat cons have melted from ignoring the check engine light. Wrap on them with a rubber mallet, when cold. If they sound like marbles inside, they have melted. If this happen it can damage downstream sensors which monitor catalyst efficiency by comparing to upstream readings.
Upstream sensors are important for engine performance and best mileage.
02 voltages should rise and fall around 0.70 volts. Both banks should be in unison, also upstream and downstream sensors.
 

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^+2 on a plug deposit read giving us good clues on whats going on in a particular cylinder & Always checking spark gap before installing & torque the plugs to spec.

On the fine wire, or platinum tip plugs, its a good idea to use a Wire gauge to check/set spark gap & slowly sneak up on the gap so as not to pull the gauge through too tight a gap & muck up the platinum pads, or damage the finewire center electrode.

Seeing as how spark gap is always opening up, if before installation we'll set spark gap to the Min side of spec, it'll help cold starts some & spark gap will remain in spec longer.

Running with larger than spec spark gap puts extra stress on the coil, wires & plug, as the system has to generate more voltage to jump the gap. Thus timing is delayed a little, we don't get good complete combustion on the power stroke, the starter motor & battery have to work longer cranking the engine on a cold start, all a vicious circle that'll negatively add up over time.

If you don't have any idea how long the plug wires have been in service, consider at least measuring their end to end resistance as noted in my previous post & maybe with the engine at warm idle, doing a "wet down" test with a spray bottle of water at night, while looking for a arcs & sparks light show. If negative on either of those tests, also replace the plug wires.
 

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Are you sure it is white smoke? Many people mistake light blue/gray smoke for white (I did, years ago when my piston rings blew). The engine may simply be burning oil. You might therefore consider performing a compression check/leak-down test before going any further, especially if we're really talking about a '97 Taurus.

The picture of spark plug #1 appears to have the ground electrode partially eroded. That condition indicates pre-ignition, which rapidly causes serious mechanical failure (like piston rings). Again, a compression test is in order.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
UPDATE. Noticed the water pump was bad, so changed the water pump out, new coolant and an oil change

Drove car, more white smoke/steam comes out. Seems like a bit more than in the past. Especially noticable in colder temps. CEL came back on for P0301

RPM 943
Calc Load % 27.1
MAF .89
Coolant 158*
IAT 86
ST1 -8.6
LT1 -18.8
ST2 -4.7
LT2 1.6

02S11 V .435
02S12 V .000
02S21 V .125
02S22 V .000


ANOTHER READING OF THE 02 ON A DIFFERENT FRAME
02S11 460
02S12 000
02S21 835
02S22 000
 
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